How I Battled Claustrophobia (and other life applications)

By | Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 5 Comments

Cheryl and I were once on a long airplane flight. It wasn’t the longest flight we had been on by far, but it seemed longer than it was. We managed to get the last seat in the back corner of the plane. There was no window, no reclining to the seat and limited leg room. I realize that’s typical these days for most seats, but this was the worst seat I ever had on an airplane and I’ve flown a bunch.

To make matters worse, the guy in front of me reclined his full 3 inches and wouldn’t sit still the entire flight.

I already knew I was semi claustrophobic, but this flight confirmed it. I thought I was going to die. I allowed myself to be psyched into a frizzy of miserableness. Cheryl tried to calm me, but I was restless.

I know it sounds extreme, and like I am a big baby, but it became that big of a deal for me at the time. I had to do something. (Even funnier was that I read a book about a WWII POW survivor on this trip. Talk about surviving – I am a sissy!)

So, how did I survive?

And why this post?

Because the way I turned an uncomfortable situation into a manageable situation was a lesson for me for other life situations. The kind that last longer than an airplane flight.

Here’s what I did:

Thought about destination. We were getting out of town. We were going somewhere exciting. It was a vacation. Better times were ahead.

Reminded myself this was temporary. I knew this would pass. It wasn’t my permanent home or situation.

Redirected my thoughts to something that I enjoyed thinking about. (Such as writing a blog post.) And planning a new strategy. And studying my Bible.

It made the trip more pleasant and helped me arrive in a better mood. Cheryl was happy about that.

But, as I said, it helped me process how I respond in other claustrophobic times of life.

When you feel stuck or like the walls are closing in around you – when you are miserable in your current circumstances –

Here’s what you do:

Look at the Destination – Think about where you’re going – maybe in your work or in life. Likely better days are ahead. If you’re a believer – a follower of Christ – you are living with some promises. But if we head ourselves in the right direction, and make wise and strategic decisions, things will likely improve with time.

(If you’re not on the right path – redirect is your step here.)

Remember the Temporary – Remember life has ups and downs. These days shall pass. good and bad seasons are a part of life.

And, as Paul said, even if troubles last a lifetime, these “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs” anything of this world.

Change your thoughts – In many ways we are what we think about – especially in our emotions. Many times what we think about determines how we feel.

Again, Paul said, “whatever is pure, whatever is noble, if anything is excellent or praise worthy – think about such things”. Maybe we need to think better thoughts.

Often when we have a proper perspective we can sit back, relax and better enjoy the flight.

Just for fun, what’s the most miserable flight you’ve ever been on and what made it so?

Waiting For What’s Next Doesn’t Mean You Do Nothing

By | Business, Church Planting, Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, Jesus, Life Plan | 15 Comments

Inactivity rarely produces anything…
Waiting on God doesn’t always mean doing nothing…

Jesus said, “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4)… He was in a time of waiting…yet He continued to act on what He could do…

Do what you know to do today…
Take initiative towards change you know you should make…

In Joshua 3 they had to get in the water before it started to part…You may have to get in the water first, before you start to see results…

Create action…it is often then God begins to reveal the destination He is taking you towards…

What action do you need to take today?

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Catch Phrases Heard On the Way to the Finish Line

By | Church, Leadership, Life Plan | 9 Comments

I try to exercise as often as possible. My current travel schedule makes it more difficult to do everyday, but I know for my personal health and well-being exercise is an important part of life and leadership.

Before knee problems, I was an avid runner. I ran for pleasure, but also in quite a few races. I’ve even run a marathon and numerous half marathons. I learned, however, distance is relative. If a 5K is your milestone, then it will be a long race. I know a guy who runs the 100 mile races.

(Jokingly, I think he’s partially crazy, but he set a goal, he worked for it. He’s achieving it.)

Good for him.

One thing I learned, however, if you’re pushing yourself at some point along the race you’ll struggle. It will go from being “fun” to being a challenge. Ask any serious runner.

I’ve also discovered – and this is the good part – without those stretching moments, there wouldn’t be near as much thrill of crossing the finish line.

There is nothing quite like running (or hobbling in my case) across the 26.2 mile marker of a marathon.

Here’s something else I’ve observed. There’s a common language among those struggling – at the point of greatest struggle.

I think you’ll find these very life and leadership applicable.

Run any distance race and you’ll hear people express frustration out loud.

I’ve heard things like:

  • I can’t do this.
  • This is harder than I thought.
  • I’m not a runner.
  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • This is crazy.
  • I’m never doing another one of these.
  • I’m in pain.

But, here’s something else I’ve observed.

I’ve never met a runner, who crossed the finish line, who didn’t receive the thrill of victory – even if it was only after they threw up in a trashcan nearby.

The completion of a dream – a goal – a challenge – feels great after crossing the finish line.

Have you been ready to give up a dream?

Are you fearing the next steps?

Do you feel in over your head?

Are you afraid? In pain? Having to stretch yourself simply to keep going?

Do you think this job is bigger than you can do?

Are the steps ahead confusing, overwhelming, or seemingly unbearable?

Often you simply need a little motivation – a little push. I’ve experienced one brief prayer give me the strength to keep going. Whatever it takes – don’t quit too soon!

For inspiration, read from the Bible Judges 6 and 7 and the story of one of my favorite Bible characters Gideon. (Notice God called him “valiant warrior” before Gideon knew he was.” Judges 6:12)

Get help if you need it. Never be afraid to admit your weaknesses. Call out to friends, advisors and, of course, God. Keep growing as a person and a leader. Do all you know to do, but keep putting one step in front of the other. Often it’s that next step that makes the turn towards the finish line.

And you don’t want to miss the thrill of crossing the finish line. No one can take that thrill away from you.

Leadership Advice: Develop Where You Are

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership, Life Plan | 18 Comments

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I’ve seen so many potentially great leaders waste opportunities because they wait for the perfect scenario before to develop as a leader…

Here’s a word to those who need to hear it…

You may not enjoy where you are currently in life or work…

You may not yet be in your dream job…

You may not respect the leader you are supposed to follow…

You may not plan to stay in your current work location…

You may not enjoy the people with whom you work…

You may be waiting for the right opportunity before you give your best effort…before you learn all you can…

What a mistake!

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What To Do When You Exceed Your Leadership Capacity

By | Church, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 7 Comments

What is your leadership capacity?

Have you found it yet?

I use the term leadership capacity to describe a leader’s maximum potential to effectively lead others to accomplish the vision.

A leader exceeds their leadership capacity when they no longer have the ability to effectively manage or lead the organization to reach its potential. Basically, they regularly find themselves on a not being able to handle all the demands placed upon them — and it’s beginning to show in the organization.

The leader has exceeded his or her leadership capacity.

You may not know the term, or even agree with my definition of it, but I suspect if you’ve led very long at all you have felt the sensation of being over your capacity.

Do you ever feel you are in over your head? Are you questioning your abilities to take things forward further than you have? 

I met with a great businessman and leader once who admitted he was overwhelmed with what was happening around him. He felt the weight of leading. His business had grown larger and faster than he ever anticipated. There were increasing demands – not only on his time, but also on the number of decisions he was having to make on a daily basis. He went home everyday feeling he had accomplished so little, even though he was doing a lot, because here felt there was so much that could only be done by him.

He knew he was already beyond his capacity and growing more and more concerned the business could get away from him unless he did something to increase his capacity as a leader.

I know the feeling. I have “been there and done that” – and probably will be there again.

I appreciate any leader who can recognize this about their leadership. That realization is like an insurance policy against leadership failure.

If you feel you have reached your leadership capacity, consider these steps:

Recognize and admit – This is most important. Do not be afraid to admit you are over your head. Humility is actually an attractive leadership quality, but even if you’re not willing to admit it to others – at least admit it to yourself.

Re-evaluate – Are you trying to do too much? Are your standards for yourself too high? Do you need to change your role in the organizational structure? Do you need to lose some of your responsibilities? Have you built too much power or too much dependence on you in the organizational structure? Are there others who need more authority – authority you’re still trying to control?

Ask for help – Seek wisdom from those who have led longer than you. Find a mentor. Take a class. Join a network. One of the values of social media for me has been the insight I have learned from other leaders, but I always have a mentor in my life — usually several. (For pastors and ministry leaders, check out what we are doing at Leadership Network to help.)

Delegate – Ask yourself what responsibility you could give away or what areas others on your team would be better equipped to handle. If you are a one person “team” then seek volunteers or part-time help to help you bridge the gaps between your leadership ability and the demands of the organization. (It may end up being an investment that protects everything else in which you’ve invested.)

Quit if needed – If you value the vision enough then be willing to step aside if you are no longer a good fit to lead it and don’t think you can get there. This is not a sign of failure or an indication that you are a bad leader. Sometimes the organization simply grows in another direction from our passion, skills or strengths as a leader. Some people are better suited to lead at one level than another. It takes an act of bold humility to admit this.

Leaders, is your leadership capacity being stretched? What are you going to do about it?

The Absolute Biggest Mistake I’ve Made in Life

By | Call to Ministry, Children, Church, Encouragement, God, Life Plan | 18 Comments

One of our boys has always been a deep thinker. When he was 3 years old watching a movie with him was a chore, because he would analyze every aspect of the plot. We would try to explain to him it was only a cartoon without a ton of hidden meanings, but it was never enough. Even today, he’s the analyzer of life – often the over-analyzer. He asks the deep questions.

Personally, he takes after me. I’m a questioner too and believe it’s been a help to me in life, ministry and leadership. But he’s much deeper than I am.

The best questions get the best answers.

So it was not surprising one day when he was an early teenager – seemingly out of nowhere Nate asked, Daddy, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life?”

I didn’t have to think long.

We had owned a very successful, fast-growing business. We stood to make lots of money in the years ahead. We sold that business to buy another. It was devastating. If it could go wrong it did.

Although it’s a very long story and we felt we were doing the right thing at the time, it proved to be a very painful five year experience until we sold the business, basically walking away with nothing and starting over again financially.

I told Nate (I call him Nathaniel) that selling one successful business and buying the other business was obviously the biggest mistake of my life.

Nate countered quickly, “Yea, but you’ve said you probably would have never surrendered to ministry had that experience not occurred.

You’re right,” I replied. “I was too busy chasing a dream. God worked it for good. But, that was definitely my biggest mistake in life.”

As I said, I’m an analyzer too, so several days later, while I was in a time of prayer, Nate’s question came to my mind. I decided to ask God about it. In my prayer, I remember saying something such as, “God, why did you allow me to make the biggest decision of my life? I would have followed you if you had made it clear. Why couldn’t you let me do it another way? That was such a difficult time in our life.

(It was one of those rare pity parties I had with God. Don’t be afraid to have them. He understands.)

God seemed to interrupt me before I could continue. Now please understand, I have never heard God audibly. I’d love to say He speaks to me everyday, but there have been a few times where I am certain I heard the impression of God on my heart – where I know God “spoke” clearly to me. This was one of those times.

(As a side note, these times will always line up with truth from God’s word. God will never contradict Himself.)

Anyway, I sensed God say, “Ron (I’m so glad He knows my name), your biggest mistake was not buying that business.”

I was surprised. I figured it must not be God to hear such a reply. So, I snapped back, almost as if I was sarcastically speaking to my own false thoughts, “Oh really, well then what was the biggest mistake of my life? Because I can’t think of one bigger.”

God interrupted again.

“Ron, your biggest mistake was following your will in your life and not mine.”

And then God was silent.

Point made. Point accepted. I had no more questions. And God apparently had nothing else to say at the moment.

The truth is many had seen what God was doing in my life – including my wife, but I had ignored them continually replying we are all “called to ministry” – which I still believe is true. But I resisted the surrender to vocational ministry for many years.

God’s counsel that morning has proven true so many times, as I reflect back over my life and the decisions I have made. The greatest failures in my life always seem to be a result of when I do what I want to do rather than what God wants me to do.

Here’s hoping someone learns from my mistakes.

Playing it Safe — Not My Style — And, Often Not God’s Plan

By | Change, Church Planting, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 32 Comments

A number of years ago, I observed a characteristic in me I hope is not permanent.

After our boys moved out of the house, we moved to a downtown condo. The condo sat on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We loved the view, but it presented a problem on windy days. We had to weatherize our front porch every time we suspected a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything was secure.

One night Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. What she really meant was I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used this phrase a few years ago.

“Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me.

I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I lived my life running to things others say can’t be done or they aren’t willing to try.

Even more, I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith — but this is more than a spiritual decision. It’s a personal wiring. It’s in my DNA. I’ve been a small business owner – with success and failure. God led us to plant two churches and we took on two church revitalizations.

In fact, I’m scared of “better safe than sorry“.

What happened to me? Am I that old? 🙂

Granted, there are times to play it safe. The night at home may not be a good illustration, because I’d likely do it again. Protecting my wife and my home is part of my life’s ambition also.

But, it did trigger something internally in me about my overall life direction. I want to continue to be a risk-taker. A person who willingly walks by faith – throughout my life. I want to be like Abram who was willing to “go” and trust God even in his old age. I found myself asking if I would take another risk if I knew it was something God called me to do – even though life was very comfortable.

So, I came up with an immediate plan.

Shortly after this, my oldest son and I have went skydiving!

We jumped out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I had to! I couldn’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post? You’re wondering, right? Do I want you to jump out of a plane? No, and I’m not saying God told me to do that either.

But, if you’re like me, the older you get, the more likely you are to play it “better safe than sorry”. You want to be comfortable. You want to pay your bills and keep your children in the right schools and plan for retirement and live in a safe neighborhood. I get it. And, all of those are okay. There’s nothing wrong with living a so-called “normal” life.

Unless God calls you to something else.

Not long after this incident was when God called Cheryl and I to leave a very successful church plant, which had started in our living room, and go to a considerably smaller, established, historic church in need of revitalization. It didn’t make sense at the time, but following God’s will did. (And always does.)

This latest move for Cheryl and me has stretched me. I’ve been “out of my league” more than I’ve known what to do. I wake up some mornings wondering what I should do today. It doesn’t always feel “safe”.

Here’s my advice. If God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand –

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

It’s wisdom! It’s strongly Biblical. Again, I’m not suggesting you don’t weatherize your house. I’m certainly not suggesting you jump out of a plane.

But, I am suggesting you be willing to do everything God asks you to do — even when it’s scary, the future is uncertain, and you don’t have a clue how in the world you are going to do it.

Regardless of your age – or your fears.

And, maybe you do need some disciplined risk-taking to stretch your ability to make the big moves again.

God never promised a safe-life. He promised an abundant life. God never asked us to “play it safe”. He asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He never promises a risk-free life. He promised a victorious life — as we trust in Him!

Here are a few questions I’d challenge you to consider:

  • What is God calling you to do which stretches your “safe zone”?
  • Where is your faith being stretched these days?
  • What are you having to do, which to be successful, God will have to come through for you?
  • Is there any area of you life you know God wants you to move – something He wants you to do – but you’ve not yet been obedient? You’re still playing it “better safe than sorry”.

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

7 New Year Resolutions Which Could Improve Your World

By | Christians, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Life Plan | 17 Comments

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident there are some new year resolutions which could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving – it might become contagious – and we might just change the world.

7 new year resolutions which could improve the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.

A 3 part checklist. What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing? It will require discipline – but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling – in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good – mostly to us – often even more than “them”. Imagine your world when you influence others by how you don’t respond when they “push your buttons” the wrong way.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger.

Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others. Oh, what a world it would be if we had less anger.

Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others.

Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook – rant-free even – where we simply stalk – I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people – real people -may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (It might even be somewhere around 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – check me on this one.)

Let’s resolve to develop our patience muscle.

Wow! I put this one in the middle so maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need – we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality – and Christ’s strength – we can keep getting better. What if we thought about the most common things which test our patience – such as the traffic on the drive home at night – and we asked God to help us deal with it before we experience it – each time? Just a thought.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us.

This one alone would surely change the world. What if we placed into our schema – into our immediate thought process – a simple understanding – OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does. What if we valued others and demonstrated to them by how we treat them, what we say to them, our facial expressions, or even our thoughts toward them? Think it might change a few of our relational encounters this year? I think it might. Certainly seems worth trying.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak.

Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. Many times disagreements, arguments, even serious issues like prejudism or racism, have more to do with misunderstanding or miscommunication than anything. When we listen we demonstrate value – but, it also guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.

I realize I’m simple-minded – but I do, henceforth, resolve.

Who’s with me?

Writing a Simple Life Plan, Part 5

By | Change, Culture, Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 23 Comments

It’s day 5 of our life planning series. This week we’ve attempted to take it step-by-step, in a simple format, to write a plan that will help us achieve some specific goals for the new year. If you missed any of these posts, be sure to catch up by reading:

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Today we have our final step…and it’s a good one…in fact…it’s my favorite….

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Writing a Simple Life Plan, Part 4

By | Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Life Plan, Vision | 9 Comments

We’ve been writing a life plan this week. I hope you are following along and writing your own plan. I’m looking forward to hearing the goals you have and the success you see in attaining them. I have tried to keep it simple, hoping that will improve your chances of following through to completion. If you’ve missed any of them, be sure and read

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Today we add another step in the process

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